“It takes one step at a time.” This was a common phrase many runners would pass along one another throughout the 2015 Chicago Marathon. This was a reminder that we all could finish such a grueling race, no matter the distance. There are approximately 138,336 feet in 26.2 miles (the length of a marathon).  This would require, on average, 65,874 or so steps. Imagine having to complete 65,874 steps on your own. Now, imagine having to complete that same amount of steps while supporting the weight of another person. Could we add a time limit?  How often are we on a time limit?  How often do we wish we had more time? These questions were a few things I continually thought about when training for the marathon.

When I began employment with ADEC, I was naive to believe I had my future figured out.  I recently returned home from college. I moved back home with my family and had my plan in place.  Originally, working at ADEC was supposed to be a temporary situation. In my plan, I would work at ADEC while finishing up the last few semesters of my degree. Once I finished school, I would put my degree into place and continue toward my ultimate dream. This all sounds familiar, huh? We aspire to become something. We all have a goal.  But, like many people in the world, something comes along and we have to adapt.

Working at ADEC was a tough transition for me. My schedule was inconsistent. One day, I would work in the morning.  And the next day, I would pull an overnight shift. Some shifts, I would work alone. And other shifts, I would have a coworker to rely on.  It took me quite a while to adjust to a sporadic, full-time job. But once I adapted, I learned a lesson. I learned that it was not about “me” anymore. I realized the purpose of my position. I was there to help.  I was there to make someone else’s life better.

Kyle Hankins. My “old man.” Kyle and I have worked together since my first day at ADEC. He reminds me every shift of how thankful he is for me. Well, I just wanted to make sure I took the space to say how thankful I am for his friendship. I am thankful for everything he has taught me. I am, especially, thankful for Kyle wanting me to be his partner in the Chicago Marathon. We made history, bud! I dare you to dream, again. I will be right there.

Remember those steps? Who would run a marathon? A 10K? How about a few miles? Some people actually called me “crazy” for wanting to run in the marathon. I called it an opportunity. I think back to my master plan. My plan was centered on me, myself, and I. My plan did not contain much substance. I really had to zone in on what I believed in. I really had to ask myself, “What can I do better?” Those questions I thought about earlier: Where do we go now?  We go to challenge ourselves. When I was asked to compete in the Chicago Marathon, I was able to look back to where I began with ADEC. That naïve-fresh out of college-know it all had no idea.  The bigger picture: take one step at a time. That has to be the motto.  We take one step at a time to make things better.  ADEC is unique. Our clients are unique. We are all unique. We all have the opportunity to challenge ourselves to take the extra step.

So, here is my challenge to all of you. I challenge you to do something different. I challenge you to take on a daunting task. And I dare you to do it for someone else. Stay an hour later for someone who may have to leave early. Drive an hour out of your way to save someone time they may be missing. Run a marathon and push someone! Whatever you do, try to rid yourself of the “I-don’t-have-time” speech or the “I-can-do-it-tomorrow” mentality. Try to take that extra step and do better. By step number 65,874, you would have completed a marathon.  And that is life; a marathon. Take it one step at a time, and make it better. Let’s embody this idea as we continue to strive to provide the most opportunity for those we serve in our lifetime.

Editor’s note: Chacriyar “Yar” Chhuon works in ADEC’s Supported Living program. His essay is the seventh in our series on perspective across ADEC.

Photo by Rod Tackett / Communications Specialist